Sunday, July 28, 2013

Production Mode, Book Excerpt: On Seeing Our Vasanas

Dear friends,
I am in full on production mode as we get ready to go live with my new website. I look forward to sharing it with you! It will feature fresh content and a new community portal.

In the meantime, here is another excerpt from my book Confessions of a Former Yoga Junkie. This is the opening of the chapter entitled The Dirty Work.

Image courtesy of Erwin Plug

Amma speaks of how, when we sweep a floor, we may think it is clean, but then upon washing it, we find more dirt. We go through a similar process in purifying our minds. We may feel that we have “gotten somewhere” and no longer have a certain tendency, only to discover that it still exists within us in a subtler form. We may even feel that our negative tendencies have increased after we have been doing spiritual practice for a while. As we cultivate inner light, our vasanas will arise to be witnessed, understood and released.

We do not need to be discouraged when we discover that there is yet more to be done in the process of purification. Our attachments will naturally be brought to our attention in subtler and subtler ways as we continue along the path.

To avoid becoming a yoga junkie, we must be willing to accept that we are imperfect beings in an evolutionary process. We don’t have it all figured out. Byron Katie has the wonderful remark, “Don’t pretend yourself beyond your evolution.” When we try to hide the dirt of our tendencies from our self and others, we only create suffering and greater complication.

This section and the three following are an invitation to begin to wade into the muddy areas of our psyches, roll up our sleeves and start the “dirty work” of unearthing our tendencies, understanding them for what they are. Once we see them clearly, we can practice witnessing them as they arise on a moment-to-moment basis, so we may ultimately release them.

Until we become fully enlightened, we all tend to resist the moment in some way. Throughout the day, our minds are busily working out creative ways to keep the illusion of separateness alive, so that we may feel temporarily important, in control and powerful. Our ego loves to build and sustain the mirage of divisiveness to keep itself alive. But the fullness, perfection and beauty of life is unfolding all the while beyond our self-sustained delusions.

There are four primary ways we resist the moment: defending, holding onto, justifying or relishing in “mine”. Some of these we do passively, other aggressively, while others through stasis. Each will yield the same result: temporarily supporting the illusion of being separate from this moment and from our true divine nature.

Anger is easily seen as an active defense of “mine”. When we get angry, we mark our territory and defend what we feel is ours with vigour.

We passively hold onto “mine” in various ways. When we resent, for example, we hold onto the idea that life is “happening to me”. We feel victimized and powerless by a situation or a person. Resentment passively incubates the feeling of “mine” more deeply into our psyche.

Similarly, when we feel jealous, we hold onto the self-perception of “mine”, because it feels threatened and unfulfilled. We are convinced that someone else has what we feel we lack.

In shame, we are attached to our shadowy self, as though it were our identity. We passively hold onto the shadow, which we feel we deserve, eclipsing the truth that we are divine light.

When we are depressed, we feel helpless beneath the weight of our identity. We hold onto it, listlessly afraid of letting it go, because we are attached to it being who we are.

Both justifying “mine” and relishing in “mine” are driven by the same static energy, that is, by the desire to keep things unmoving. When we judge, we justify “mine”. We maintain a divisive perception by either putting our self above or below another.

We relish in “mine” when we are proud. Through pride, we attempt to maintain a lavish, over-inflated self-perception, which we feel we need to boast about to uphold. This keeps us ultimately feeling alone in our ivory tower.

Whether we are defending, holding onto, justifying or relishing in “mine”, each is a way we keep unhappiness alive in our lives. These tendencies, when left unchecked, can even develop into addictions, in which we find it very difficult to renounce certain behaviours – or even realize they are a problem - because we have a deeply ingrained sense of our self as flawed, dirty, incomplete, incapable or bad, and in need of something external to take away the pain of it all. It is only through the willingness to to bring these tendencies to the light that we free the energy stuck there within. In so doing, we find the fulfillment we have been wanting all along.

The second edition of Confessions of a Former Yoga Junkie will be available soon. To add your name to the pre-orders list, click here
Wishing you peace and joy on your journey,

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Parvati Magazine - Play

Hello Friends,

This week, I share with you the August edition of Parvati Magazine. The topic is perfect for the summer: play! 

Here is my introductory Letter from the Editor:

Here is my article  on Positive Possibilities Living, entitled "Life’s Play: Immersing Yourself In the Mysteries of 'Lila'"
Please share these links with anyone you feel may be interested.
Also, enjoy the rest of the articles by a talented group of writers who are dedicated to a better world.
Big thanks to the Managing Editor, Pranada Devi, who tirelessly works hard each month to make sure these articles get to you to enjoy.
Have fun!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Yoga of The Will

The Egos Will

The common use of the word "will" conjures the notion of determination and focus to initiate an action. It is associated with the idea of pushing to get what we want and making extra effort to have things go our way. As such, when we feel that our will has been beaten by others or thwarted by the universe itself, we can often feel like a pile of roadkill pushed off to the side of our lifes path.

We can easily find many examples of this ego-driven understanding of the word "will". It is praised in boardrooms, at schools, in sports, in entertainment even in yoga classes, as I explore in my new book Confessions of a Yoga Junkie. This use of willfulness exists in most areas of life in which we wish to excel. But do we really understand the true meaning of will and the value it has along the spiritual path?

From Unconscious to Spiritual Awakening

When we live unconscious lives, we feel we must make our lives happen. Oblivious to being part of anything beyond our little selves, we imagine that we are the universe. In this limited perspective, our willpower is our tool for survival. It is our identity. The stronger our attachment to that identity, the more chances we believe we have to get ahead.

But once we wake up to a spiritual reality, we start to contemplate the right use of will. We hear prayers that include phrases like "Thy will be done" that encourage the release of our singular way. We begin to consciously participate in a force greater than our limited will.

As spiritual aspirants, we seek to understand how we fit within the greater whole. We begin to question the absolute intelligence of our own personal will, and wonder if it is in alignment with divine will. We contemplate what divine will may be for our self.

We may have experienced first hand being led blindly by our ego into painful situations and ending up hurt. Perhaps because of this, as we evolve spiritually, we begin to feel less attached to things being "my" way and open instead to other possibilities. The notion of opposites starts to dissolve. The sense of you/me, us/them, yours/mine dissipates in exchange for a deeper sense of our innate interconnection. The possibility germinates, and eventually flowers in our hearts and minds, that God/the divine/the universe may just have a better plan than we may yet see. As we learn to live beyond our ego, our lives become bigger, richer and fuller.

In so doing, we open to divine will. Yet we are often left numb and floundering as to what that could possibly be. We may have let go of overly driven uses of our will, but perhaps only in exchange for becoming Mr. or Mrs. Nice, or Oh-So-Spiritual, unclear as to who we are. We have not yet found how our will fits into a spiritually focused life, and wonder if it does at all.

Effortless Will

I have personally spent years in this quandary. I have shared in previous blog entries how I have been undergoing the death of my "feisty girl" who could conjure immense force to do the seemingly impossible, fueled unconsciously by the notion of being alone. Once she started to dissolve, I found myself questioning the right use of will.

This Mercury Retrograde, I have been going through a sort of personal recalibration, a period of greater introversion. I have found myself drawn to longer periods of meditation and contemplation. Something within me has been growing, seeking to emerge, as something else needed to fall away.

Through this period, I have experienced moments of exquisite effortlessness, as though finally, in my every cell, I was getting out of my own way and allowing my flower-like nature to simply bloom, each breath, one moment at a time. I could feel a hard shell around me, my ego watching to stake out an ambush, trying hard to hold on strong. The schism between my effortless, natural, unbridled self and the constriction of the ego would become painfully clear, and then, something would dissolve into absolute ease.

As I have ridden the waves between these two, a-ha moments would arise. In one such epiphany, I experienced how flowers exist effortlessly and are complete in their magnificence. Flowers never question. They simply are. In that state of beingness, they are everything and nothing. I witnessed how I question God's will for me, as though it were outside myself, a distant, elusive, all-powerful thing separate from me, judging me from on high. Then something started to soften and I would experience myself as that flower again and God's will was simply effortless joy.

The Yoga of Will

It has become clear through this process that the right use of will is neither forceful nor road kill. It is neither tense, nor soft. It is yoga, balanced, present, surrendered, and in flow. I realized that the right use of will is simply a complete and absolute YES! in my every cell to my soul's joy, a total release of all thoughts of anything else being my purpose. Joy is my purpose. Joy is God's will for me. So by focusing unequivocally on my joy, I align myself with universal, divine will. As I say YES! with each breath to my deepest soul joy, my life becomes a living prayer.

It is not up to me to then say, I will make it happen. That is the universes role. My job is simply to continually say yes, one moment after the next, and keep getting out of the way. From that place, clarity arises and I effortlessly breathe into my next step. I do not forcefully make anything happen. I am a dynamic co-creator, in divine conversation, in flow with the universes cosmic play.

Joy is not wanting. Wanting feels constrictive in some way. Joy is always rooted, vital and expansive. Joy is our connection to the divine within us. When I am in joy, I am in a state of receptivity. In that state, I am in abundance. When I am in abundance, I am in flow and all is already manifest. The universe knows my deepest joy, because within my deepest joy is the universe. They are not two, but one. God's Will and my joy are not two, but one.

Ask yourself, What is my deepest joy? Open to your joy as you would a flower. That joy reflects your divine nature. It is the divine in you. Take three long, deep breaths and see if you can open to the possibility that your joy is the universes joy. Repeat: My joy is the universes joy! Repeat it until you feel it tingling in every cell of your being. Effortless joy is who you truly are. All you need do is believe it and get out of the way so it may flower and become your entire life.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Finding Compassion For Those Who Hate

When you put yourself out there, share your heart and voice with the world, there will inevitably be those who love you, those who hate you and those who just don’t care. Being on the spiritual path, I find this to be an excellent teacher and a perfect ego grinder, because whatever people think of me, it does not matter. Of course, my ego says, I would love everyone to like me. But I have no control over what people think and do, or how people judge. I can only do my best, love as best I can and humbly continue to open to each moment and learn the lessons each one brings. In the end, what matters most is my relationship with the divine, which affects how I treat others and myself. What is essential, lasting and true is that I practice seeing the divine in all, even in those who may not like me.

It is hard to understand the motivation of hate, but in essence, we all have the capacity for it. No one is immune to its seduction. When I am lucidly honest with myself, I can openly say that I have felt it rise in me and take me over. I have felt its burn singe my heart. I have fallen into the indulging thrill and delusional self-importance that it conveniently provides. I have felt pumped up, important and proud through it. And I have also felt immensely alone and in pain because of it.

It is hard when we fall out with someone we once called a friend. It is extra hard to see someone close turn into someone who expresses hatred toward us. Hopefully, we do our best to understand each other, talk about the misunderstandings, heal, make amends and return to love. But without both parties being willing to return to a place of humility, little healing can take place. Walls are built, misunderstandings grow and pain festers. Whether friends or strangers, people who do not like us are still our valuable teachers. They teach us what Amma asks us to embody: “Progress is being made when you can retain evenness of mind in the face of praise and shame, honor and dishonor.”

I recall an encounter that reminds me of this. As I watched spiteful venom come my way from people I had considered friends, I had to take pause and witness the propulsion of pain. I noticed that I did not feel hatred towards them. After I worked through my initial shock and hurt at meeting this kind of dark energy, I found myself watching others hold onto their pain as they seemed to wish it upon others. I noticed that ultimately, it seemed they just wanted to feel loved, but were going about it in an upside-down manner. They were indirectly asking for love through hate, which simultaneously was pushing love away.

In that moment, I understood their suffering. By holding onto and identifying with their pain, the people they were hurting most was themselves. Amma says, “When you harm anyone, you harm everyone, especially your own self.” It was clear they were just in pain, and no amount of painful thoughts from me projected their way was going to help them, or me. I did not want to add more pain to the fabulous job they were already doing to themselves.

Amma advises, “Communication begins when you fully understand the other person's point of view.” What was the other people’s point of view? They were hurting and felt I was the source of that hurt. No apology was helping, no reaching out was received, no healing was of interest. They seemed attached to feeling “right”, hard done by, and wanted to hold onto their sense of hurt. With one party unwilling, there could be no discussion. So their pain continued. But I did not need to hold on. So I walked away and still wish them well. Amma says, “If you cannot speak with love and respect, wait until you can.” In the case of haters, the best option is silence.

The exchange was ultimately a gift, another piece along my path. Whether I am at the top of the electronic charts (where I now have been for many weeks, thank you for your generous support!) or whether people love or hate me, I cannot rest my happiness on other’s opinions. My job is to love, understand and serve each moment as best I can with a sense of receptivity to what it brings.

The deeper gift in that exchange for me is found in Amma’s wise words: “If someone is doing something that you find really offensive, check to see whether you are doing something similar to someone else or to yourself.” People who direct ill will our way can be divine mirrors to ways we may be relating to others or ourselves. In my case, I was reminded of how hard I am on myself, which I have been in the midst of seeing more clearly these past months. I don’t always speak to myself with kindness. I don’t always treat myself with love. I don’t always offer myself compassionate understanding. I can allow my self-confidence to be undermined by an old habit of self-doubt. Through that exchange, further contents of my psyche were stirred for me to see and ultimately release. So thank you, even to those who hate me, because you bring me back to the divine and teach me to love.

This day opens with a clear intention to continue to practice feeling ok being me, regardless of what others think. Because ultimately, I will only love others as well as I love myself. Amma says, “Don't just apologize for hurting someone; make the firm resolve that you will never again do that painful act to anyone.” So my sincere prayer is to continue to learn to care for, befriend, honour, love and be gentle with myself. May I have a rich relationship with the divine and may this inform a loving relationship with self and all beings.

When my grandmother was on her deathbed, I asked her what was the meaning of life. She said to me so wisely: “It is all about being yourself. It is so simple, most people miss it.” I can miss it, get caught up in thinking I “should” be/do/think/act in some other way than what feels most relaxed and myself. My true nature is love. So I learn to relax more deeply into trusting that divine truth. I go continue to allow it to flower within me and simply be, no second-guessing. Trust the arising.

The divine love that Amma shows us is within us all. It is our true nature. The rest is just temporary clouds passing through the pure and vast sky. Sometimes the clouds are dark thunderclouds, like when we meet the energy of hatred. But that has no real lasting power. Pain is perpetuated when we hold on and won’t come back to the reality that our true nature is love. I cannot make someone who is attached to pain treat me with love and respect. But I can love and respect myself and learn to treat everyone that way, without condition. That will bring me the joy and lasting happiness I seek and create the best offering I can bring to the world.

May we all know our divine nature and love!

Jai Ma,